Saturday, June 1, 2013

Learning to Self Soothe

As a mama to a high needs infant who loved to be held 24/7 and took ninety percent of her naps in my arms or the Moby wrap (and the remaining ten percent in a swing), I've lost track of the number of times that well meaning friends, relatives, bloggers, and baby sleep experts have informed me that my baby would need to cry herself to sleep in order to learn how to self soothe. I have a book written by a sleep expert that informed me if she didn't learn this skill between four and nine months of age (if I remember correctly) then she would have sleep trouble her entire life. This advice sounded believable until I actually had her :) I can't say that I initially disagreed with the concept that self soothing is a learned skill, per se, but as a new mom I knew I wasn't about to force the process any time soon. I figured we'd just cross that bridge when we got there, whenever that happened. I've never known a five year old who needed to be nursed to sleep, so I wasn't too worried.

What I wasn't prepared for was E initiating the process of putting herself to sleep at sixteen months. One day she didn't want to be nursed to sleep for her nap. She wanted to be in bed, by herself. She did cry, but for the first time ever it was in a relaxing, getting settled sort of way rather than the full out war I had been used to, and in a few short minutes she was sound asleep. She didn't successfully get herself to sleep every day, especially if we had friends over or she felt she was missing something fun downstairs, and I always picked her up if the whimpering escalated to crying or screaming. Some days she still wanted me to help her out and I gladly rocked her to sleep, but after a few weeks of gradual toddler-led transition somehow my daughter decided she just didn't need me for nap and bedtimes anymore.

Now she loves going to bed and she decides when it's time to go upstairs to sleep. Today I actually took her outside to splash in some water to distract her from her desire to nap mid-morning. When she's ready, she'll grab my hand and guide me upstairs, lay still while I put on her diaper, and snuggle with her teddy bear as she lays her head on the pillow. Just this week she's started waving goodbye to me as I leave the room, almost as if to say, "get out of here already!" *tear* How did she grow up so fast?!

So now we have the benefit of a two minute nap time/bedtime routine. It almost seems too easy. Almost. And then we're away from home for the day and I remember why I liked the previous routine, aside from the obvious snuggles. No longer will she nurse to sleep and then stay asleep anywhere, anytime. She now has trouble getting to sleep anywhere other than her own (okay, my own) bed, except for the occasional snooze in the car seat. On Mother's Day when she was at Grandma's all day, she went the entire day with no nap whatsoever. It's been a bit of an adjustment making sure we're always home for nap time. Well, except for this week when we didn't leave the house at all for the purpose of potty training.

Fortunately, E's still super cuddly and makes sure to get all her snuggles in during the day. She gives amazing arms-squeezed-around-the-neck hugs that could melt even the iciest of hearts. I guess I'll have to forgive her for growing way too fast.

Puddles of cuteness
On a completely unrelated note, my beautiful baby has only had one accident since Wednesday morning. Potty training success! We'll see how it goes when we venture out of the house this weekend.


  1. This was such a helpful and encouraging post to read! I am a new mommy to an adorable 3-month-old and my husband and I have decided that co-sleeping and attachment parenting (if we had to put a label on it) work best for our daughter and our new little family. I love the moments of rocking my daughter to sleep with her tiny little hand holding my finger and seeing her face absolutely melt into relaxation. However, I never could have guessed how many people we be so judgmental about our decisions! It's so nice to read someone's experience on the "other side" of the infant months and how well it has worked out for you! Thanks for sharing :-)

    1. Thanks for your kind words! I'm glad you were encouraged by what you read. I, too, loved the rocking and snuggling at that stage. There is truly nothing sweeter than cuddling with an infant! Hug that little baby every chance you get, before you blink and she's an independent toddler :)